The Blog

Losing My Hair, Not My Control

I felt like I was still in a little bubble dealing with my own diagnosis, without it being obvious to the world that I was a cancer patient. I knew as soon as all the hair was gone the bubble would burst and everyone would know - they just had to look at me.

As a cancer patient, particularly as a female, losing your hair has to be one of the most emotionally challenging things to deal with. It doesn't matter how tough you are, nothing can prepare you for the horrible feeling of putting on your shampoo in the shower, and removing a whole handful of hair. It was at this point that everything really hit home for me.

As I watched the hair build up in the plug-hole, I suddenly realised that this was really happening. I was actually going to lose all my hair, the side effects to the chemotherapy were happening, I really did have cancer.

Everything became harder to deal with as the hair began to fall out. I was constantly leaving a small trail of hairs behind me and large piles were developing in the bathroom and on the bed. This was the hardest part, because I was always aware that one day I would have to look at my own bald head in the mirror. But I still constantly hoped that that day would never arrive.

I felt like I was still in a little bubble dealing with my own diagnosis, without it being obvious to the world that I was a cancer patient. I knew as soon as all the hair was gone the bubble would burst and everyone would know - they just had to look at me.

A certain haircut provides a person with a sense of identity; but as my hair was falling out I felt like my own identity was being stripped away. Soon people would not see me anymore, they would just see my cancer.

There is no sugar-coating it - losing your hair is a hard thing to go through, as I always knew it would be. That is why I tried to approach my hair loss in the most positive way possible. I knew that I couldn't fight my hair falling out, so I had to take control of the situation as best as I could.

I decided I would do that by making sure that I got most of the hair removed myself. Leukemia now controls most of my life, but here, I would make the decisions.

It began with the haircut. It was only roughly two weeks after my diagnosis, but I was determined to get my hair chopped whilst I still had the chance. When I told the hairdresser in the hospital that I wanted to get a pixie cut, she looked at me like I had gone mad.

She even left me for over an hour so I could think it through. Apparently most people take the 'slow but steady' approach to hair loss and simply get a couple of inches taken off each week, so in comparison it seemed I was taking the extreme option.

In my mind, my hair was going to fall out anyway and I've never been brave enough to try short hair before, so this really was the perfect opportunity.

I was actually really happy with the results and I received a lot of compliments. So much was slipping through my fingers, this sense of empowerment really made a difference. If I could deal with this, I could deal with anything else that this experience had to throw at me.

As my hair continued to fall out, I knew I had to make a difficult choice: I decided to get the rest shaved off. Whilst this was a difficult decision for me, it was a liberating one too. Once again I had taken control of the situation. My hair may have fallen out, but at least it had happened on my watch.

The next, and very important stage of hair loss, is the decision as to which wig you will choose. You are only offered one free wig on the NHS, so I wanted to make sure that I chose the right one. However, this is not something that I did alone.

I asked all my friends, family, and everyone reading my personal blog, if they had a preference. Everyone had their own opinion and I loved the fact that they all got involved. It made, what was quite a difficult time for me, into something a bit more fun.

Chemotherapy can be the most isolating and lonely thing in the world, so it is very important to embrace everyone around you. Just through people voting for a particular wig, I felt like they cared and that they were going through everything with me. Having leukaemia may be terrifying, but with all these people by my side, I knew this experience would be a whole lot better.

Many of my friends have also shown their support by joining the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register, and that's made me feel like something positive is coming out of this situation, as any one of them could save the life of someone in desperate need of a lifesaving transplant. As I said in my last blog, I need a stranger to save my life through a bone marrow transplant and I asked people to sign up with Anthony Nolan.

The Anthony Nolan charity told me at least 10 people signed up directly from the last blog so thank you so much! It's easy to feel helpless in the face of cancer, but knowing that people are signing up and saving lives because of my story is another way of me regaining control.

If you are aged 16-30 please go to the Anthony Nolan website to sign up. You have the power to save the life of someone just like me.

Pictures blogger's own